Multiple news outlets have reported over the last few months that NBC is exploring the option of replacing Jay Leno with Jimmy Fallon as host of The Tonight Show when Leno’s contract runs up in 2014, fueling a lot of speculation as to who will get Fallon’s job. According to a piece today in The NY Post, Howard Stern is being “groomed” by NBC to take over Late Night if Fallon gets the Tonight Show job. The Post cites sources close to Stern as saying he’s the top contender for the job, but NBC has yet to make an official comment on the Stern/Late Night situation or the Fallon/Tonight situation.
Howard Stern has been trying to get into late night TV for decades. In 1987, he made several unsold pilots for Fox to take over from recently-ousted host Joan Rivers. Additionally, a taped, half-hour version of his radio show aired late at night on E! from 1994 to 2005, and a different taped version of his radio show aired on Saturdays in late night from 1998 to 1999 on CBS stations before being dropped by most affiliates for being too obscene. Since then, Stern has proven he can play to a family friendly audience in primetime as a judge on America’s Got Talent, and if he can do that without offending anyone, he can certainly host a late night show free of controversy. It is surprising, if these rumors are true, that NBC is going with 59-year-old Stern for Late Night, a show that has traditionally drawn a young audience and had hip young hosts (Letterman and Fallon were 34 when they got the job, Conan was 30). If selected by NBC, Stern will be the oldest person to host Late Night in the show’s three decades on the air. Stay tuned as this giant late night shift continues to take shape.